“Where were you two days ago?”
I looked at the stern face of the police man blankly. For a split second I could smell the wet mud, hear the roar of thunder as the parched earth eagerly swallowed the rain. It had been hot, very hot, 48 degrees. As usual, there was a power cut. I remembered two days ago very clearly. Unable to sleep, I had walked out of the house to soak in a bit of rain.
“In office” I ventured tentatively.
The police man exchanged glances with the woman police officer. She looked on quietly.
I felt the sweat trickle down my back.
“Madam, we are not talking about the day time. Yes you were in office during the day. After that?”
The thunderstorm had given the city a reprieve. It was just 40 degrees now, air-conditioning was more efficient.
“Oh I see. Sorry Sorry,” I nodded slowly. I came home. I used the metro.”
“Who was in the house at that time?”
“No one. Suresh was out on tour. I unlocked the house and came in.”
“Are you sure Madam?”
“Yes! If Suresh was home, I would have cooked proper dinner. I am not the kind of wife who gives her husband a sandwich for dinner” I said indignantly, tears welling up in my eyes. Mother had impressed upon me that a man has to be given his proper dal-roti-sabzi, that too freshly cooked.
“So you made a sandwich?” the woman spoke for the first time. Her accent was rural, Haryanavi.
“No” I whispered sheepishly. “I went to McDonalds and bought a burger.”
“Then?” asked the man.
I looked away. It was a chicken cheeseburger, with extra cheese and a large bag of fries. I had ordered iced tea with it. It had been a Saturday. The mall had been full of families. Then it struck me. “I met Suresh’s friend Arvind over there.”
“Do you have the bill?” asked the police man.
I nodded. Then I opened the fridge in which the brown bag was still sitting with the left over fries and rummaged in it. There it was, the slip, grease stained, but the date clearly visible. I handed it to them. The woman went and opened the fridge, took out the bag and peered in. “You can take it Madam. I think I’ll never have a burger again.” I tried to keep my voice steady but failed.
They stood there impatience emanating from their bodies in waves as I sobbed in my chair. I could hear the ancient noisy fan groaning as it completed its rotation time and again. “You knew the woman?” the woman asked.
I looked at the photo she showed me and flinched. The two of them, naked, blood around their bodies mixed with wine from the broken bottle. I looked away and shook my head numbly.
“I’ll never eat a burger again,” I said disjointedly.
“Madam we found the woman’s name and her address. She went to school with you?”
I looked at them dumbly. Sweat was rolling down my back, and my shirt was sticking to it. Then I whispered, “Did she? Who?”
I screwed up my forehead in concentration, and then nodded wearily. “She was with me in Class VII. Then her father shifted out. I did not know they knew each other.”
They nodded and the man said, “You know the drill. You have to stay in town while the investigation is going on.”
I nodded and they left. I peered out of the window; the woman was eating the fries.
Naina Misra … she was a friend, at least I think she was. We had met her unexpectedly in Thailand, the summer before last. I had never thought Suresh noticed her or remembered her. Well, I was shocked when they walked out of a swank restaurant that night, obviously high on expensive liquor, great food, and lust. I had thrown the burger away, my appetite gone.
Followed them. Called her husband from the resort.
Two days ago ….
Two days ago I made that phone call that cost two people their lives.
Another GBE2 prompt